Rethinking - an Introduction to "99 Unique Experiences"

A few people have asked me what my new project "99 Unique Experiences" is about. To this there are two answers:

1. THE WORK

The images are made by finding 99 photographs of an iconic location on Instagram (photographs that other people have taken) and overlaying them on Photoshop without any distortion of perspective in order to create a composite image of that location. It's my way of visually exploring the modern impulse that has puzzled me for some time: that we go to iconic places and have to somehow take 'ownership' of our personal experience of that place by photographing it. The result is that many people visit one place, each document it - often from exactly the same spot - and end up producing images that are both completely the same and very different from other people. 

2. THE PHOTOGRAPHER

For me, it's an experiment. When I started studying my Masters in Photojournalism & Documentary Photography, I was aspiring to hone my skills in a Reuters/AP sort of direction. But after exposure to multitudes of work that take an expansive and diverse range of approaches to photography, this is my attempt to expand my own practice outwards into interrogation and ideas, which have always interested me as much as images have. I'm not sure where this leads, at this point, but it feels like a productive and interesting place to be right now, while I have the luxury of time to explore. 

Close-up from "99 Unique Experiences at the Taj Mahal".

Close-up from "99 Unique Experiences at the Taj Mahal".

Time for Writing

In 2012, fresh out of an undergraduate degree in English Literature, I wanted to apply to the MA Photojournalism & Documentary Photography course at London College of Communication. I had just moved to Australia and had grand designs for my photographic future and no idea how to get there. 

In 2014, having spent some time finding my London legs after moving between three continents for two years, I was ready to apply again. I showed up at the open day, asked a bunch of relevant questions, and went back to my day job. 

In 2016, I finally did it: applied, left my job, and I am now two weeks away from the halfway point of the degree.

There a few things that spring to mind out of recounting this experience and I want to remind myself of them as I move forward in 2017:

  1. Time takes time - a lot of learning only comes through living through the experiences to get to the other side.
  2. The right time isn’t always when you expect it to be - I am convinced that had I applied for this degree in 2012 and 2014, I would not have the stomach that I have for it now.
  3. The ‘other side’ moves as soon as you get there, and that’s no bad thing - I began this course wanting a career in Reuters/PA-style reportage, and now find my practice veering off in exciting but very unexpected directions. 

The one thing that has been consistently true though is that I write. Sometimes it is a means of creative exploration - trying new forms, working on short fiction to explore ideas. Sometimes it is a means of capturing experiences as they happen - diaries, blogs, moments snatched on notebooks. Sometimes it’s a form of thinking through something that is not yet clear, and sometimes it’s a means to produce a well-considered, well-researched, in-depth piece on something of interest that isn’t necessarily personal or in any way explicitly connected to the writer.

At this moment, in 2017, I have decided it might now be the right time to start writing publicly again in the form of this blog. 

This is going to be a space for exploration. If you are looking for more clean-cut, well-thought-through, microwave-ready thoughts, they can be found on my Medium account. If you’re as interested in WIP as I am, then I do hope you’ll join me here for the ride.